The Power of Buzz
Friedmann Copyright © 2004
How did Hotmail gain over 12 million subscribers in 18 months? How did the
very low budget movie The Blair Witch Project become such an
incredibly successful phenomenon? The answer lies in the power of
Buzz or word-of-mouth marketing influences more people to buy, or not to
buy products and services, than most other forms of marketing. Why is it
so powerful? Basically, we have a need to share information as a means of
communication and also as a way of understanding the world around us. Often,
we base many of our purchasing decisions on information gleaned from friends
and well-respected associates. We tend to listen to them more readily than
most mass-media messages.
In his book The Anatomy of Buzz, Emanuel Rosen states, most
marketing today ignores the power of buzz and tries to influence each customer
individually. He believes that buzz travels through invisible
networks that link people together. Noise, skepticism and connectivity all
influence today's buzz.
As exhibitors you need go no further than the tradeshow floor to find a network
that creates a real buzz. It starts prior to the show, gathers momentum at
the show, and then slowly dissipates after the show ends. Every exhibitor
has the power to influence the buzz. It all depends on product/service quality,
marketing savvy and the decisions made.
I recall visiting a telecommunications show a couple of years ago when the
buzz on the show floor concerned a Fortune 100 company and major player in
the industry, (who shall remain nameless). The talk centered around the image
of their booth which wasn't quite up to expectations. The buzz went
like this: The ABC Company has gone cheap. They must be having financial
problems. It's gossip like this that starts the wheels of the
rumor mill turning and can even create havoc on the Stock Market.
Remarks like this often have very little bearing on reality, but people make
assumptions and decisions based on what they see and hear. Obviously, the
originating source of the buzz plays a key role in its basis for truth.
I'm sure that you would much prefer any tradeshow buzz to be positive.
Since talking about products/services makes economic sense, how can you use
the buzz to add to your existing marketing efforts? I've put together
ten guidelines for you to consider:
1. Brainstorm all possible groups of people who might be interested in your
products/services. Consider including the media, opinion leaders, influencers,
lead users, politicians, analysts, etc. Don't forget chat rooms and
newsgroups although buzz still spreads primarily by personal interaction.
2. Research how information spreads among your customers. Ask them how they
usually learn about new products/services. Who are their major information
sources? Who's information do they value? You're primarily looking
for groups of people rather than individuals. However, don't discount
individuals, as they may well be a powerful opinion leader.
3. Develop a clear and concise message highlighting the product/service benefits
you want to filter through these different groups. Zero in on your
product's uniqueness and what it can do, for example, to help save time
and money two basic elements most people seek.
4. Think about ways to tap into these groups to spread the word about your
products/services. Use these in addition to your existing marketing efforts.
Never rely on just one means of connecting with you target audience. Your
credibility is enhanced through different marketing mediums. For example,
exhibit marketing could include pre-show advertising, at-show sponsorship
and post-show, a trade publication article. The more ways people can hear
and see you the better.
5. Offer prospects easy ways to try your product/service. For example, the
makers of Pictionary gave demos in parks, shopping centers and other gathering
places. The tradeshow floor presents excellent opportunities for this.
6. Come up with other creative ideas to enhance tradeshow show demonstrations.
What can you give people to take away to remind them of your company, products
and positive show experience. Think about something that will help create
the buzz. It'll have to be more creative than a keychain or stress ball.
The more product-related the better. You want people to remember and talk
about you positively!
7. Look at special groups whom you might offer a product discount, a loaner
or even for free. You're looking for groups/individuals where the direct
product experience will help spread the word. For example, when FedEx started
out, it offered free shipping to show people how their program worked. America
Online continuously finds ways to offer hundreds of free hours of trial usage
to entice new users. I recently saw a display of free CDs at WalMart.
8. Use press conferences for major announcements, new product introductions,
but only if they are truly new or improved, or general industry trends -
what's hot and what's not. Realize that editors are interested
in timely newsworthy information; industry trends, statistics, new technology
or product information. The media get very upset attending a press conference
which is poorly organized and where there's nothing newsworthy.
9. Use sneak previews at tradeshows to build anticipation and help create
a buzz on the show floor. Give people a fun experience and a behind the scenes
view of what's coming. TV and the movies have got this down to a fine
art with their coming attractions. Siemens just did this extremely successfully
at the recent CTIA show in Las Vegas. They organized a live marketing
presentation with a futuristic theme that featured a digital phone prototype.
They certainly created a buzz, which had people, including myself inquiring
about the product's availability.
10. Make use of tradeshows to educate your target audience. People are hungry
for information. Investigate opportunities to speak either during the workshop
sessions or incorporate an educational session into your display.
The power of buzz far exceeds many conventional marketing vehicles. It is
probably the oldest, most well-used and valuable one out there. Look at how
you can make it an integral part of your existing marketing plan to influence
the voices in your industry.
About the Author:
Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author:
Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies, working with companies
to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and
training. Go to
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